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15 May 2009

Top 5 Pet Peeves on MLS Listing Alert Emails

I bought a home back on December 10th of 2008.  That is almost exactly 5 months to the day and I am still receiving those automated MLS listing alerts from the first agent I ever spoke to about buying a new home.  Being in real estate now for almost a year I find them sort of fascinating because I am curious if I actually bought at the bottom of the market in my town.  Turns out I didn’t, but that isn’t the point.  The information (listings) contained in these emails can be very powerful motivators to get an active buyer or someone on the fence to engage an agent.  The most important reason is that the information contained within is the most accurate and trusted source for new listings and  listing status changes (price drops and under contract).  With such a powerful vehicle for information, I wonder why it misses the mark on so many levels for the average home buyer.

Listing Email(Click to Enlarge)

I have compiled my top 5 list of issues with some suggestions for improvement:

1. Isn’t visually engaging

I understand this is focused on just one thing, listings, but it doesn’t mean it has to look awful.  This is a plain text email and doesn’t use an HTML format which could add a ton of visual interest and just make it look so much more professional.  Also there really isn’t an information hierarchy as all the text is relatively the same size and rarely uses bolding or italics to emphasize important information.   Most importantly, why aren’t there pictures of home in line?

2. No recognition of my home buying status

If I already purchased a home then you have to be concerned with buyer’s remorse.  The last thing I need to see is a comparable home for less money in a better neighborhood.  You should remove me as soon as I close or at least give me the option of continuing to receive these alerts and be upfront about how I opt out when i just don’t care to receive them anymore.

3. Vanilla customization

The email opens the same way EVERY TIME!

“Dear Jason,

Here is today’s listings update for your review. Please call or email if anything here is of interest or if you have any questions. Thank you!

Best regards,”

Here’s a suggestion; how about you make the real estate buying experience customized and personal.  It would be nice if my agent reviewed the listings and made comments like “just saw 123 main st. and you won’t like the backyard.”  Instead they are letting technology do the work and leave it to me to reach out my agent if i see anything of interest.

4. Too much technical language used

The main purpose of this email is to make me click the “CLIENTFULL” link.  Shouldn’t it be “View today’s NEW listings.”  If it were an html email you could insert a nice big, shiny button to get me attention to the most important action Also if the instructional copy is way too prominent and technical for the avg consumer.  Lastly, I see terms like “GSMLS “and “ID55512555”; is that even necessary?

5. Missing valuable data

The MLS has a wealth of data that would be relevant other than just new or revised listings.  I would love to know what has recently sold or gone under contract as a start.  I am eager to consume as much information so I can make the best offer given all of the contributing factors.  To their credit I did have an agent who did run those types of reports and send them to me, but I had to ask.

As you can tell I think this marketing vehicle has a world of potential that isn’t being utilized to its fullest  I would imagine the execution of these emails varies by MLS and without the ability to get this data from anywhere else, there isn’t any motivation for them to improve.  In the end, we the consumer lose out.

9 thoughts on “Top 5 Pet Peeves on MLS Listing Alert Emails

  1. As a Realtor, I have found the Listing Alert emails to be a valuable tool. We are restricted to the MLS service our local/regional MLS board contracts with as the provider and I know our services have an “opt out” link on each notification email.

    Agents fall in to one of three categories in my mind in utilizing these services….busy or lazy or technically challenged in using the tools set forth. I am probably guilty of not changing the individual welcome on the automated emails, though I do send separate property specific emails if I have worked with the client and know what they are looking for (even when they sometimes aren’t really sure)

    I also have set up automated emails for past clients (new investors) that provide comparable data (sold properties) so they can keep up on the market. Not something the traditional buyers wants to deal with but again, a wonderful tool for those that have the interest.

    Our MLS is becoming more and more proactive in forcing the agents to stay on top of these automated features (I’m sure it takes up a lot of resources) by limiting the lenth of time they can remain active without some manual input from the agent.

    Good article!

  2. Hi Jason,

    The point of the auto emails is to automate. Agents don’t have time to customize everything. f I have a live prospect or wish to send a custom message I send the link to myself then forward it with a personal message.Otherwise a design solution would be to have agents buy a customized ( canned) message that incorporates the data. MLS sending to vendor who then wraps it up and resends. It is still canned, no need to spend more for a anothe techno gadget with no ROI–other than having latest item. There are too many items now with no ROI only expense. The tools expense is completely out of the ballpark.

    Good morning Jason it is 58 degrees in New Jersey, the pollen count is 101. the forecast is for warmer temperatures. There are 2 new homes that have come on the market in your area here are the details

  3. Hi Jason,

    Great post, thank you!
    There are two issues you point out, which are clearly very different but not identified as such in your post.
    1- The quality (content and lay-out) of automated emails from MLS systems
    2 – The way agents are providing clients with listing information

    Allthough I fully agree with your points, it is important to seperate these two topics as they cannot be performing the same tasks.

    An automated service can look appealing, but can not likely include personal touches.
    And the personal mailings can harldy compare to the (technical) options an automated mailing can do – such as link tracking.

    So I think it is important for agents to verify with their clients which they prefer, explaining them the differences and advantages of either method. By communicating this correctly, you enhance your business (as an agent) on multiple fronts:
    – be a leader to the client
    – provide the client with what they prefer
    – increased communication
    and a bunch more which are probably obvious 🙂

    It would be nice if automated MLS mailings are first send to the agent, who can screen and/or modify them, and then sent them onwards (as if comig from the MLS) to the client.
    So developers, get cranking please!

    Greetings from The Netherlands
    Han

  4. To respond to each point:

    1. Not visually engaging: Many email programs do not support html in emails, so adding photos would just render the emails unreadable.

    2. No recognition of your home-buying status: Did you buy from this agent? If not, how would she know you’re not still in the market? Our automated email service allows buyers to sign themselves up. I have no idea if the buyer has bought from someone else. If they sign themselves up, they’ll need to go back into the system and take themselves out. I can’t do it for them, I don’t know their passwords.

    3. Vanilla customization: Hello! It’s an automated system. You want personal messages, you’ll need to personally contact the agent, perhaps even hiring them to be your agent.

    4. Too technical: Right, it should not be too technical. But that hasn’t been my experience.

    5. Missing valuable data: Most MLS’s are limited as to what they can share with the general public, unless they have an agency agreement with a buyer or seller. So if you don’t want generalized info, HIRE a real estate agent to represent you and ask them specifically what you want to know.

  5. My MLS is working on creating a very web 2.0 version of the email alert. It will actually work similar to a Facebook account. An agent will invite the prospective buyer in and the buyer accepts. Then this buyer has a front porch and their the links for new listings will appear. The buyer can invite in friends and family and everyone can comment on the different listings.

    The idea behind this is, people are having conversations with friends and family now, but they are doing it by email and the agent is not viewing the conversation. Now the whole thing takes place in an environment that is controlled by the agent.

    It is still in beta, but looking pretty good.

  6. FYI: this emails send by mls system automatically. So as an agent you do not have to review them otherwise it takes long time to send all these updates to the customers one by one..

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